The late start to the 2009 season and late end to it mean that we have a shortened offseason. Perhaps, then, I shouldn’t have been surprised at how much activity we saw in the immediate aftermath of the World Series, with a trade being consummated even before the Yankee clubhouse had been cleaned. Still, the days following the Series feel like they’ve been busier than that period ever has been before. Let’s get caught up:

  • I’m in the minority on this, but I think the J.J. Hardy/Carlos Gomez trade between the Brewers and Twins could work out for both teams. Maybe I’m just overly optimistic about Gomez, who was rushed to the majors in 2007 and hasn’t recovered from that, but his defense alone is worth a couple of wins a season, and you don’t have to be a great hitter to play when you have that kind of glove. Moreover, Gomez did improve in 2009, cutting his strikeout-to-walk rate in half, largely on the basis of walking more often (once every 16 PA, versus once every 24 PA in 2008). He’ll be just 24 years old next season, which leaves him plenty of time to improve as he approaches his peak. He doesn’t need to take big leaps forward, just to continue to make strides in his pitch recognition, plate discipline, and patience. A +15 center fielder who bats .270/.330/.380 with 10 net steals is a very good player.

    It could also be that I don’t get the big deal about Hardy, who has had one strong season and one decent one in his five-year career. His career line of .262/.323/.428 is about what he is, and he backs that up with an above-average glove. He’ll be the best shortstop the Twins have had in a very long time, and getting Hardy as he comes into his age-27 season makes him an upside play, but again, you’re talking about a player who’s had one strong year in his career, and who followed that up with a 659 OPS. Hardy isn’t Barry Larkin.

    The Twins had a hole at shortstop and an extra outfielder. The Brewers had an extra shortstop and were due to lose their center fielder to free agency. This is a good trade for both teams, much better for the Brewers than it looks at first glance, as they get the younger player with more growth potential.

  • I wish I could see the benefit for both teams in last week’s deal for Mark Teahen. The heavily right-handed White Sox add lineup balance in Teahen, who improves their third-base/second-base situation by being better than the Chris Getz/Jayson Nix platoon of last year. He’ll play third as Gordon Beckham moves to second, an alignment that should provide better defense-Beckham, a shortstop by trade, did not play third base well.

    Now, the assumption here is that Teahen will find a way to arrest a decline that has seen his unintentional walk rate and K/BB slip steadily for three years, taking his OBP with it. His batting average and power are what they are-he’s a .270 hitter who will slug .410-and the question is whether his OBP will be an asset if he walks 50 times, or a drag if he walks 30 times. He’ll be 28 next year, and Kenny Williams is betting on the former. I am, too.

    Even at .270/.320/.410, Teahen might be worth the price paid. Getz is a useful bench player who isn’t going to provide enough offense to be an everyday second baseman, although he could have a year in which enough balls fall in to provide the illusion that he is. His contact rate and K/BB last year showed him to be a bit overmatched at the plate. Josh Fields is the opposite type of player, an all-or-nothing power bat who has struck out in a third of his MLB at-bats. Fields is a lousy third baseman, which shouldn’t matter since he’s joining a team with Alex Gordon. He could have value as the short half of a DH platoon, since he’s had success against left handers (.285/.356/.580), but that’s about it. If part of the process is trading for decent bench players who’ll be under team control for a while, so be it, but this trade doesn’t add the kind of talent that will change the narrative around the Royals.

  • Speaking of left-handed batters who’ve never quite panned out, the Marlins dumped Jeremy Hermida on their old friends the Red Sox in exchange for two arms. It was a cost-cutting move to trade the arbitration-eligible Hermida, whose power has been going backwards for years. He slugged just .406 and .392 the last two seasons, with 30 homers in 931 at-bats. With Chris Coghlan, Cody Ross, and Cameron Maybin, the Marlins no doubt perceived a need to deal an outfielder. That reflects an optimism about Ross’ future I do not share, as well as a commitment to Coghlan as an outfielder that is misguided. I can understand not wishing to pay Hermida a lot of money for 2010, however, the likelihood that he would do well in arbitration is tamped down by his performance, and at 26, he’s still capable of development. Moreover, making this deal on November 5 seemed completely unnecessary.

    Enter the Red Sox, who have no reason to fear a $5 million fourth outfielder and have second-tier prospects to burn. Hunter Jones is a lefty specialist-in-training, having made his last start in 2006, but finishing just about 40 percent of the games he’s pitched since then. He can pitch a little, with an 89/29 K/BB in 103 2/3 innings at Triple-A, and he won’t even be arb-eligible until after 2012 at the earliest. He could be part of another low-cost, high-effectiveness bullpen next year. Jose Alvarez is the upside guy, a small, slight right-hander from Venezuela who won’t turn 21 until May. He’s struggled at times against older competition, but when dropped into the New York-Penn League this summer, he was arguably its best pitcher. The Marlins got some value back, but I’m not sure its enough to outweigh what Hermida could be for a team that has enough win-now to it to spend some money.

    For the Red Sox, Hermida becomes the fallback position in a world where they don’t retain Jason Bay or sign his replacement. Hermida seems like a hitter who would benefit from Fenway Park, and I’m not convinced that spending an additional, say, $35 million over the next three seasons to improve upon Hermida is necessarily worth doing. No left fielder is capable of adding much defensive value in Fenway, so that cuts off some of Matt Holliday‘s worth, and Hermida will be playing through his peak over the next few seasons. He could be a .280/.350/.480 hitter as a Red Sox. Maybe this is designed as a fallback, but from here, it looks like a pretty good primary play.

  • The already-thin pool of outfielders took a hit when Bobby Abreu re-signed with the Angels for a total of $19.5 million over two seasons ($9 million for 2010 and 2011 with a 2012 option at that same amount paired with a million-dollar buyout). This seems like another bargain for a player who is in the midst of a slow, productive decline. Abreu is a critical part of the Angels‘ offense, a high-OBP player on a team that doesn’t have many of them, and a left-handed batter in a lineup that can list a bit to the right. By signing Abreu so quickly, they ensure that at least one of last year’s catalysts will be back in the fold, and as we saw in the playoffs, Abreu and Chone Figgins were critical to the team’s run scoring.

  • Similarly, the Giants re-signed Freddy Sanchez to a two-year contract. The team seemed unlikely to return Eugenio Velez to second base, and the market didn’t seem likely to provide a solution. Nevertheless, a signing like this shows that it’s business as usual in San Francisco, where a mid-level veteran be paid well in his decline phase. Sanchez led the NL in batting at .344 in 2006, when he was 28. Since then, he’s hit .289/.323/.410 with no speed and good defense. The glove is nice, but the Giants, with their high-strikeout staff, need to be trading gloves for bats wherever they can. This signing will hurt them more than it helps, especially if Sanchez occupies one of the top two spots in the lineup.

  • The Mariners re-signed Ken Griffey Jr., making it clear that they don’t expect to contend in 2010 and that they don’t have any need for 400 plate appearances on the major league level with which to develop or evaluate a prospect, so they can appease the madding crowds and fill some seats late in the year with yet another week of tributes to a player who made the League Championship Series once in his life, yet never, not once, has seen that fact back up on him.

    I wonder what would happen if Alex Rodriguez forced a trade from a good team to a bad one and then never made the postseason with the new team. Or if he went 4-for-25 with no extra-base hits in consecutive Division Series in which his team went 1-6. I just wonder.

  • The Arizona Diamondbacks correctly picked up the option on Brandon Webb. It will be costly, $8.5 million, but spending that money on Webb’s innings and what he might bring back in trade is a better use of funds than just about anything else you can get for $8.5 million in today’s market.

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Oh i am right with you on the Hardy/Gomez trade. I've been confused about all the criticism the Brewers got for this -- in fact this immediately struck me as one of the most well-designed trades i'd ever heard of.
That's because A-Rod used steriods and Griffey is the Natural. People just like him better. It's petty, but it's true.
Teahan, from what I understand, was a pretty good defensive 3B too. I do like the trade from the White Sox side.
Wrong "whose"/"who's" in the Gomez/Hardy comment. Urk! And spot-on about the perceptions of ARod vs Griffey. The Kid can still do wrong in the eyes of the press. I'm not saying that the Kid *has* done wrong, but I don't think Joe is either - it's all about perception.
I'm not sure that the Sox got much in Teahan, but at least he plays a position of need for the Sox. The Sox didn't give up much of anything to the Royals. Getz was a bad defender, which made him of pretty marginal value. Re Griffey only making it to one LCS, now now Joe if that's the standard for greatness, one might ask you to apply it to Billy Beane............
Re: Griffey. Cincinnati is just different. The town, not the team. Having lived there, and a bunch of other cities too, it's just different. Anybody who goes to high school in the city has a connection, whether they want to or not. I'm not saying its good or bad, but if you haven't lived there, and you think normal standards apply, you're missing the whole point.
Other than poor luck for health, Griffey had nothing to do with not making the playoffs here in Cincinnati. It was all about being surrounded by crappy teams and having poor ownership that has failed to take advantage of a tax payer funded stadium. Why the hate? He's never even been sniffed around for performance enhancing drugs, yet the man love for ARoid, who lied......and is still lying about his drug habits?
I think akw and greensox are missing Joe's point. It's not that we should revile Junior for all that stuff. The point is that we don't do so, but if it were A-Rod, we would do so, employing both a stupid measure of greatness and a double-standard.
Remeber Griffey did get thrashed by the press for trying to sit out of the home run derbys a few times. He was also considered selfish for wanting to be closer to home yet going to Cincy instead of Atlanta (which is where he lived) and for reducing all the trading leverage that the Mariners had.
'We' do so for ARod in part because of the Yankee thing, as well as the ginormous contract and the roids and the lying. A rhetorical 'we', in that I got nothing against ARod. But also don't consider myself morally/intellectually superior to anyone who does dislike him. Yeah, I'm weird that way. Griffey definitely got his share of negative national press in his Cincy days. Was called a head case, some suggestions he was lazy.
I think people were more upset over the Rangers contract than the fact he became a Yankee, though tha renegotiation thing by Boras when he was a Yankee came out horribly too.
Great point about Junior's forced trade out of Seattle, vis a vis ARod's roundabout path to NY. Griffey did indeed get a pass, which Rodriguez never got. And he really has been a dog since leaving the Northwest the first time. Also, I too agree that Gomez has the most upside in the Hardy/Gomez deal. And if he becomes anywhere near the player his talent indicates he might, the Johann Santana deal will start to look even uglier than it has to this point.
ARod is a money-grubbing, cheating player with no honor. Griffey left Seattle in large part to the pressures he was facing from people and management, but also to be at home. At the time his contract was considered below market value. All Arod has ever done is demand that he's paid more then anyone else, regardless of circumstance or situation. If some Japanese team in the early 2000's offered him a 500,000,000.00, he'd still be over there playing for the money. Comparing Arod and Griffey is like comparing a Dale Earnhart with Lance Armstrong.
"this trade doesn’t add the kind of talent that will change the narrative around the Royals." No trade of Mark Teahen was going to bring back players who could change the narrative around the Royals. Teahen isn't that valuable. That said, perhaps the Royals could have traded him for two longshot, high-upside minor leaguers, I suppose. Maybe that is what you were getting at. I see Teahen as a nice, albeit minor, improvement for the White Sox. By the way, Joe, do you now think this was a little hasty: "Here’s the thing: if you think Alexei Ramirez is a shortstop, and you’re not going to play Gordon Beckham there, you may as well trade Beckham, who isn’t going to be anything special at third." I still wish that the Sox had passed on Rios and just moved Alexei out there (they wouldn't be bumping up against their payroll budget right now, that's for sure), but if the idea was that they'd look for a third basement and use an Alexei-Beckham middle infield deployment, then that is also very defensible, in my opinion. Ramírez might settle down a bit in his second year back at shortstop -- I have read that he shuttled between CF and SS when he was in Cuba.
Everyone can say what they want to say about those two players. The only difference between the two of them is that one got caught lying. That's pretty much it in a nut shell. I know I will get a -15 rating or whatever, don't really care. There was a reason Griffey broke down, and it certainly wasn't bad luck.